Man gets life in prison for 2017 killing of cousin, shooting of friend

Keschon Kerns (left) was shot and killed by his cousin Jamal Kerns.

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Keschon Kerns (left) was shot and killed by his cousin Jamal Kerns.

A man who killed his younger cousin in 2017 and shot a friend less than a month later was found guilty of various charges, including murder, and sentenced to life in prison, authorities said.

Jamal Rashad Kerns, 25, was found guilty of malice murder, felony murder, two counts of aggravated assault and two counts of possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony in the May 2017 fatal shooting of his cousin, 18-year-old Keschon Kerns, and the shooting of a friend, now 24, in June of that same year, the DeKalb County District Attorney’s Office said Wednesday.

Keschon Kerns was found dead in Decatur by his grandfather the morning after the shooting May 21, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution previously reported. He was in the driveway of the Harvest Hills Court home, lying in front of his grandfather’s Honda Accord with his hands held together near his face and Nike sandals off his feet.

Jamal Kerns was booked into the DeKalb County Jail on June 8.

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The District Attorney’s Office said the cousins lived with their grandfather at the time. After Jamal Kerns was arrested, he told officers that he encountered Keschon Kerns holding their grandfather’s gun, prosecutors said. Despite confessing later that he was not afraid of his cousin, Jamal Kerns slapped the gun out of his hands and shot him several times in the wrist, shoulder and back, the district attorney said.

It is now believed by authorities that Keschon Kerns never had a gun. Instead, Jamal Kerns took his grandfather’s gun and fatally shot Keschon Kerns, the district attorney said.

A few days after the death, Jamal Kerns told the AJC that he loved his cousin.

“I was just trying to think what happened and who did it,” Jamal Kerns said at the time. “I loved him to death, man.”

Jamal Kerns was not initially charged because police she he had an alibi. He and his brother, Jamel Kerns, said they were at a hookah bar before the body turned up. Jamel Kerns said Keschon Kerns was playing a video game when they left the Decatur home. The brothers said they came back at 3 or 4 a.m. and didn’t see their cousin in the darkened driveway.

The District Attorney’s Office said the brothers did spend several hours at a hookah bar, but that was after Jamal Kerns fled the scene after shooting his cousin.

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Jamal Kerns confessed to the killing while he was being questioned about another shooting that occurred June 6 when he injured a friend, the AJC reported. The District Attorney’s Office said Jamal Kerns and his friend were hanging out in a car outside the friend’s mother’s home when the conversation turned to Keschon’s death. The friend told Jamal Kerns that he did not believe his alibi, prosecutors said.

Jamal Kerns then got out of the car, grabbed a gun from his truck parked nearby and shot into his friend’s car several times, according to the district attorney. The friend was struck on the right side of his head.

Following Jamal Kerns’ guilty verdict, he was sentenced to life in prison, plus 25 years.

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